Saturday, February 28, 2015


Vegetables in many shades of purple.
I love all things vegetable. Raw, cooked, green, yellow, leaf, stalk or root. And, I’m a sucker for novelty. So, when I saw those lumpy looking purple potatoes, how could I not try them?

Yep, purple potatoes. I’d heard about such things, but never tasted them myself. And here they were at the grocery store. (You might recall I reacted similarly not so long ago to the appearance of purple carrots. Check those out here .)

I bought a pound-sackful of the potatoes, then went back to get more in order to try them in several ways. I also collected some other purple vegetables, just for the visual fun of a still-life in purple.

Purple potatoes, like other blue and purple fruits and vegetables, are a rich source of anthocyanins, valuable antioxidants that help regulate blood pressure, boost the immune system and contribute an anti-inflammatory effect to the body.

Potatoes have purple flesh.
The skins of the potatoes are deep brownish-purple, but cut one open and it reveals a deep purple on the inside. Purple potatoes pale a little with boiling (anthocyanins are water soluble), but they don’t bleed like beets. Baking in their skins is one way to preserve the vibrant violet color. Even better is microwaving.

How do purple potatoes taste? Like potatoes. Like the very best potatoes, wonderfully earthy, a little sweet. They smell more potatoey too, as if they had been freshly dug from the earth. The texture is like a good russet or other baking potato. The ones I bought were all medium-small, golf ball-size.

Lemon juice changes color.

Acid (lemon juice or vinegar) will turn the potatoes toward the red-violet hue; alkaline (such as baking soda) makes them bluer. Shown in the photo, cooked purple potatoes on the left; on the right, cooked potatoes marinated in lemon juice.


I cooked the purple potatoes in various ways. While they make perfectly good fries, once they’re nicely browned, the color hardly matters. A potato gratin with cheese was luscious but, again, the color hardly mattered. Quartered potatoes tossed with olive oil and roasted were perfect and pretty alongside roast lamb. Baked in their skins and served with pungent alioli (garlic mayonnaise), they were sublime. And, a new take on a favorite tapa bar salad—papas aliñadas, with a lemony dressing were a great success.

Remembering the color wheel, I used yellow as a complement to the purple, substituting yellow tomatoes and strips of yellow bell pepper for the red in the classic potato salad (that recipe is here ).

 Purple Potato Salad with Lemon Dressing
Papas Moradas Aliñadas

Purple potato salad with lemon dressing.
Don’t add the lemon dressing to the potatoes until immediately before serving as the acidic lemon juice tends to turn the potatoes to a pink hue. Unless, that is, you prefer a pink potato salad!

Serves 10-12 as a tapa or 6 as a side dish.
2 pounds purple potatoes
Extra virgin olive oil
Minced scallions or onion
Cherry tomatoes (preferably yellow), halved
Diced yellow or red bell pepper
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
Sliced hard-boiled eggs
3-ounce can of tuna, drained (optional)
Lettuce to garnish

Place the potatoes in their skins in a pan and cover with water. Add 1 teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon vinegar. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are just tender, about 18 minutes. Drain. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and slice the potatoes into a bowl. Add 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Let the potatoes marinate at least 1 hour or, covered and refrigerated, up to 24 hours.

Shortly before serving, add the scallions, cherry tomatoes and diced bell pepper to the potatoes. Combine 4 tablespoons of oil with the lemon juice. Mix into the potatoes.

Spread the potatoes on a platter. Garnish the top with parsley, sliced egg, chunks of tuna, if using. Put a few lettuce leaves on the sides.

Like the classic tapa bar salad, but with purple potatoes.

Roasted Beet Salad with Grapefruit
Ensalada de Remolacha Asada con Pomelo

Beets contain phytonutrients called betatains. (Eat the greens too, lightly sauteed.)
Beets are bleeding hearts—the magenta-hued juice (betacyanins) colors everything. At first I tried to avoid this by layering the beets and grapefruit segments. 

Beets layered with grapefruit.
Beets mixed with grapefruit.
Then I tried combining everything with the dressing and produced a much more vibrant salad, as the beets tinted the grapefruit.

4-5 medium beets
Coarse salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 grapefruit
¼ cup hazelnuts
Chopped scallions to serve
Lettuce leaves to serve
For the vinaigrette
¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 tablespoons grapefruit juice
1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

Trim the stem and roots from the beets. Wrap them individually in aluminum foil. Place them in an oven pan and bake 1 hour, or until the beets can be easily pierced with a skewer. (Beets never get soft, but stay crisp-tender.) Remove from oven and allow to cool.

Pinch off the skins and cut off stem tops. Cut the beets in half, then into thin wedges and place in a bowl. Sprinkle with coarse salt and 1 tablespoon oil.

Peel pith and skin of grapefruit.
To peel the grapefruit, cut a slice off top and bottom. Place on cutting board and slice down around the curve of the fruit to remove peel and white pith. With a small knife, cut between the membranes, releasing the grapefruit segments. Squeeze the juice into a small bowl.

Toast the hazelnuts in a small skillet. Chop them coarsely.

For the vinaigrette: toast the mustard seeds in a small skillet until they begin to pop. Remove them to a small bowl. Add grapefruit juice, vinegar and honey. Whisk in the olive oil. Season with salt.

Place a layer of greens on salad plates. Combine the beets and grapefruit segments. Stir in the vinaigrette. Divide the beets between the plates. Top with coarsely chopped hazelnuts and sprinkle with chopped scallions.

What about those other purple vegetables and (one) fruit in the photo at the top? With the purple plums I made a spicy plum chutney. With the “red” cabbage, a slaw with apple, carrots and toasted cumin. I put sliced red onions atop a salad with smoked trout and caper berries.  And the eggplant—the purple is only skin-deep—a cheesy pudding baked inside the skins. (Those recipes, next week.)


  1. I love your PURPLE blog....Really fun and creative....It is funny how we assossiate certain fixed colors with the food we know....I´ll try the purple potatoes , not only to see how they may differ in taste...but to see what it feels like eating purple potatoes.
    Back from Madrid..I shot a PURPLE guitar player in Retiro Park...I´ll send it to you.
    Synchronisity.........XXXX C

    1. Charlotte: Glad you like the purple prose. You'll find the purple potatoes at our local supermercado.

  2. Hi Janet- I live and garden in Guevejar,just north of Granada city and am interested in growing purple potatoes in the fall or winter here. I am wondering if you have any idea where I might track down some to sprout for planting.

    1. Dhijana: Sorry I do not, but I'll be on the lookout. The purple potatoes I bought came from France and I haven't seen them for sale in the past year or more. Purple carrots, however, come from the village of Cuevas Bajas. You could probably get seed for them.